Reflections and News on Universal Children’s Day
Children’s Day is marked around the world on the 20th of November. This date marks the day on which the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of the Child in 1959 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989.
The CRC was one of the fastest and most universally ratified UN conventions ever with only the US, Somalia and more recently South Sudan not party to it. It sets out the political, economic, social, health, and civil rights of children and nations that ratify it are technically bound by international law. There are also three Optional Protocols (OP) that are in various stages of ratification and support. The First OP restricts the use of children in armed conflict, the Second OP prohibits the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Both of these were adopted in 2000. The Third OP introduces a complaints procedure for children allowing them to bring cases of violations of their rights to the UN; it was adopted in 2011 and opened for signature last year, at this point it is one signature away from entry into force. One of the main objectives of Children’s Day is to raise awareness of the CRC itself, as well as the situations children face around the world. You can read more about the CRC itself and the first two OPs here and the third OP here.
Often children appear in our news as victims—uncomprehending, vulnerable, exploited, or as dangers—uncontrollable, delinquent, threatening. Children are often used as touchstones of the level of violence and horror, or as symbols to make tragedy comprehensible. It is true that both these characterizations reflect situations children find themselves in at times. Often, however, these dichotomizing renderings of children hide or ignore the active agency of children in these situations who work in small everyday ways, and sometimes in dramatic extraordinary ways to counter the situation they find themselves in.
There are critiques of the universalizing nature of the CRC, of its blanket claims of the efficacy of the ‘Three P’s approach to chidlren’s rights (that is Provision, Protection, Participation), and arguments that such discourses perpetuate a western narrative of rights that reinforces the inadequacy or incompetence of other nations.
However, I think these conversations can exist alongside the need to have mechanisms by which nations and international organizations can mobilize and act to support children around the world and intervene in situations where structures of power and inequality mean children cannot act.
To mark the day I wanted to share some links and stories I’ve encountered recently; some specifically for Children’s Day, some just for everyday.